Australia's feared fast bowler Brett Lee has quit Test cricket after a run of injuries, following Andrew Flintoff as the latest player to give up the tough format in a bid to prolong his career. Lee, 33, who is slated to play in India's lucrative IPL Twenty20 competition next month, said the long-expected decision was a "cricket choice and it's a lifestyle choice". "To me, Test cricket is my favourite part of the game, wearing the baggy green cap," he told Sky News. "But if I'm going to keep playing cricket for another few years, something had to give."
Lee took 310 wickets in 76 Tests since making his debut in 1999, making him Australia's fourth most successful Test bowler behind Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee. However, the tall, blond paceman last played a five-day match in December 2008 when he suffered a severe foot injury during the Boxing Day match against South Africa in Melbourne. Lee, who has a young son from a failed marriage, has since battled ankle and rib problems, keeping him out of last year's Ashes series, and said he had been considering his decision for months.
An earlier report said he finally decided to quit after talking to England all-rounder Flintoff, who retired from Tests last year. New Zealand's Jacob Oram has also walked away from Tests to focus on one-dayers and Twenty20s. "This hasn't happened overnight. This has been a long process," Lee said. "I've had the time to step away from cricket and decide what I want to achieve. "It's been about a three- to four-month decision that I've made and finally I went with it."
Lee's intimidating physique and pace made him a terror among batsmen as he lined up alongside Warne and McGrath in Australia's all-conquering side of the 2000s, when they dominated the Test rankings. Wisden magazine's 2006 Cricketer of the Year lays claim to cricket's second quickest recorded delivery when he bowled at 160.8 kilometres an hour in 2005, a speed bettered only by Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar.
Lee, who appeared in the 2009 Bollywood flick Victory, said that, like other Australian players, he was awaiting security clearance to play in this year's IPL after a reported threat from an al Qa'eda-linked militant. "As far as going to India, it's just waiting and seeing," he said. "We're not in a rushed situation to make a call. "We (players) are not experts in that field." Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland praised Lee's "fantastic" career, while former Test colleague Shane Warne said Lee was "one of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game, which is pretty amazing".
"Brett Lee was fantastic. I remember him in the 1999 Boxing Day Test match against India, I remember him steaming in, bowling fast," Warne said. "I thought it wasn't so much what he did, it was the way he did it. I thought he played in a way that was entertaining, I think people enjoyed watching him bowl." Lee, who averaged 30.82 runs per wicket and clocked 10 five-wicket hauls, also scored some important runs with the bat, averaging 20.15 with a high score of 64.
And his most enduring image was in batting helmet and pads, when he was consoled by Flintoff after Australia fell agonisingly short of a win in the 2005 Ashes series, which England went on to win. Australian captain Ricky Ponting said Lee would go down as one of the country's greatest Test players. "If we all just take a minute and think about what he's put himself through in that 10 or 12 years - running 35 metres to bowl every ball, bowling every ball at close to 150 kilometres per hour, and putting his heart on the line every ball he bowls," Ponting said.
"I think this bloke deserves a massive pat on the back." *AFP